Former Michigan Rep John Dingell dies at 92

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Former US Congressman John Dingell (D-Dearborn) has died at the age of 92. 

John Dingell served in Congress longer than anyone in United States history. He was a proud World War II veteran, public servant and Michigander.

The Democrat was first sworn in as a member of the House in 1955, taking over the seat his father John Dingell, Sr. held for more than two decades. His wife, Debbie, currently holds his seat.

His wife Debbie's office sent the following statement Thursday night:

"It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of John David Dingell, Jr., former Michigan Congressman and longest-serving member of the United States Congress. 

"Congressman Dingell died peacefully today at his home in Dearborn, surrounded by his wife Deborah. He was a lion of the United States Congress and a loving son, father, husband, grandfather, and friend. He will be remembered for his decades of public service to the people of Southeast Michigan, his razor sharp wit, and a lifetime of dedication to improving the lives of all who walk this earth."

Dingell's political career spans from working in the House Page School from 1938 to 1943 to being one of the chief authors of the Affordable Health Care Act. His passion was public service.

"You never know how long you're going to stay and you just hope that the people keep you around and let you continue your public service," he once said. "We are not important - the job is important."

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On Wednesday, the morning after President Trump's State of the Union address, Debbie tweeted she had stayed home to be with her husband as they entered what she called a "new phase," which sources later said was hospice care.

She tweeted for him through his account a feisty last tongue in cheek message - "You're not done with me just yet."

A year ago he was diagnosed with prostate cancer that spread and did not seek treatment. John Dingell was hospitalized last September after suffering a heart attack but he was able to return home a short time later.

John Dingell had said that politics are different these days.

"There's not the cooperation," he said. "There's not the compromise. There's not the conciliation. They don't build the friendships here that they used to and the result is the business of the nation suffers here." 

Over the years Dingell helped push through legislation that shaped our country. He authored The Clean Air Act, The Safe Drinking Water Act, The Affordable Care Act and The Patient's Bill of Rights. But he considered his vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as his most important of his career.

"It almost cost me my job," he said. "But I got to tell you it was a pretty doggone good vote. It was a hard fight, but it solves a problem that was eating at the soul and the heart and the liver of this country. We have not yet solved that problem and much remains to be done." 

Dingell served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and served under 11 presidents - from Eisenhower to Obama. 

In February 2014, when Dingell first announced his plan to retire, he said he still had things he wanted to accomplish. 

"I'd like to see to it that we get the Affordable Care Act in place and working," he said at the time. "I'd like to see us create a situation where we could address the budgeting problems and deficit. I think this country desperately has to address the difficulties in jobs and opportunity." 

He helped get the Affordable Care Act passed during his final year. In November of 2014 Dingell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the country's highest civilian honor.  

After 30 terms in office Dingell said it was time to go.

"I can be a second rate congressman - I'm not going to do that," he said. "I can be 1st class one and I'll be proud of that. I don't want to be going out feet first and I don't want to do less than an adequate job."

His wife, Debbie, won his seat in Congress - keeping the Dingell name going in the 12th Congressional seat up on Capitol Hill.

In January 2017 John Dingell was surprised with a big honor, learning the Detroit River International Wildlife refuge visitor's center in Trenton would bear his name. 

The former congressman was very active on Twitter. Often showing off his unmatched sense of humor.

In the summer of 2015 he bet his wife that he couldn't get 5,000 Twitter followers in a certain period of time. She did. So his self-imposed punishment? Reading mean tweets about himself. 

"'Oh, John Dingell shut your f-ing face you old f-ing liberal,'" he read, before saying: "I've got to keep going to help folks like you."